A short history of black diamonds
I say ‘a short history’, because that’s exactly what black diamonds have. Historical records of black diamonds are relatively rare, a combination perhaps of their being seen as a deal less covetable than white or pretty coloured gems and associations with darkness and ‘bad things.’
One such ‘bad things’ stone is the now 67.5carat Black Orloff. Accordingly to Wikipedia (in a tale worthy of Indiana Jones) the diamond – originally 195carats (WOW!) – is said to have been discovered in the early 19th century in India, as one of the eyes in a statue of the Hindu god Brahma. Then known as The Eye of Brahma, it was stolen by a Jesuit monk (clearly a man with his own moral code) which, according to legend, caused the diamond to be cursed. Over 100 years later, in 1932, diamond dealer J. W. Paris is said to have taken the diamond to the United States and soon after committed suicide by jumping from a skyscraper in New York City.
The diamond came into the hands of two Russian princesses, Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky and Nadia Vygin-Orlov. Both women allegedly jumped to their deaths in the 1940s. The diamond was later bought by Charles F. Winson and cut into three pieces, one of which became known as The Black Orlov; a somewhat unfortunate choice, seeing what happened to the Princess of that name…?
It wasn’t until very recently, within the last 30 years or so, that black diamonds were recognised as beautiful stones in their own right, which is why you won’t find antique jewellery with black diamonds – Wallace Simpson, despite having some of the most creatively designed jewellery of the 20th century, may never have even seen one.
At the start of this century, a major event really brought sizeable black diamonds to the attention of the sparkle-loving public. Mr. Big gave on-off love Carrie a 5carat black diamond engagement ring at the end of the movie Sex in the City 2. Because, he said: ‘Because you are not like anyone else.’ I know, right?!
Most naturally coloured black diamonds get their colour from large quantities or clouds of minute mineral inclusions such as graphite, pyrite or hematite that run throughout the stone. These diamonds may also have numerous tiny fissures and fractures that are stained black or have become black because of the graphite. As you’d expect, the colour of a natural black diamond can vary, from brownish to almost an olive green, smoky grey to darkest grey.
Today, most of the black diamonds sold for jewellery and engagement rings have been treated to intensify the colour: using high temperature-low pressure treatment, grey or white stones with many, many fractures and inclusions can be turned black, as the treatment ‘graphitises’ the fractures. Make sure you ask your jeweller if the stone you’re looking at is natural or treated.
What about the 4Cs?
Black is, in effect, a non-colour, so a black diamond can’t be given a C – Colour score. Also, because the very thing that makes black diamonds black is the vast number of inclusions, they also can’t be assessed on the C – Clarity scale. They are of course identifiable by their C – Cut and C – Carat weight, as are all precious stones. The description will therefore be based upon these two Cs, plus a record of whether they are natural or treated.
What about the 5th C – Cost?
Black diamonds are surprisingly more affordable than you’d imagine – in part due to the facility to treat grey diamonds to make them black. Here at Christopher Evans, we are thrilled to carry a collection of rather special ‘rose cut’ black and smoky grey natural coloured diamonds which deliver some serious bang for their buck…because of the cut.
Rose cut gemstones have flat bottoms, so they can be very wide and have high impact in their setting, but their carat weight is reduced because the bottom piece is missing, as it were. Think of a muffin – all golden and risen and cascading over the paper case. If you slice the top off the muffin and discard the base, this leaves you with a ‘rose cut muffin’. Of sorts, anyway! This doesn’t affect the dark sparkle of the stone in any way. As black diamonds are almost wholly opaque, light doesn’t pass through them in the same way, and as the pointy bit is left on fine gemstones to enhance and uplift the sparkle, it’s not really a requirement on a black diamond. It also means that they can be set into far flatter profile rings – men’s engagement rings, for example – adding a contemporary twist to many pieces.
Why not call in and see what we have – you’ll be blown away, I assure you!